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Mysterious Actions of Chinese Satellites Have Experts Guessing |

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The mystery surrounding the recent launches fits the Chinese pattern, said Dean Cheng, a research fellow on Chinese political and security affairs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

"Not sure why these are a surprise, other than that the Chinese don't tell us what they're going to do, so anything they do comes without a convenient press briefing," he said. [China's Shenzhou 10 Space Lab Mission in Pictures]

Close proximity maneuvers, like that between the two Chinese satellites, are consistent with a range of possibilities, from the benign (docking, refueling and repairs) to the malign (anti-satellite), Cheng told

"But it is perhaps useful here to recall that the People's Republic of China remains intent upon establishing space dominance as part of their thinking about 'fighting and winning local wars under informationized conditions,'" Cheng said. And, even as the Chinese call for greater military-to-military contact with the United States, it's true "that they remain opaque, and that they pretty much refuse to engage the U.S. on military space issues."

That is, while China expands its space capabilities, the country is likely just as interested in military capabilities for their expanding array of space systems as it is in peaceful functions, Cheng said.

"Since space systems are largely dual use, it should not be surprising that there would be interest in the ability to maneuver satellites in close proximity … but neither should there be blithe assumptions that this is necessarily for solely peaceful ends," Cheng said.

Do they even have a strategy???

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